Which Golden State Warriors Youngster Has the Highest Upside?

Scott Burns@Follow @ScottInTheBayCorrespondent IIIJanuary 9, 2013

December 28, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes (40) looks on during the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at ORACLE Arena. The Warriors defeated the 76ers 96-89. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors youngsters are producing at a level that is helping keep the team within the Western Conference playoff chase and in competition for the Pacific Division crown.  Harrison Barnes is the highest producing rookie in the draft class, but Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli and even Kent Bazemore are putting in quality minutes.

This is only their rookie season and they still have a lot to learn, but they have showed some of the skills that have gotten them to this level.  Who has the most potential and who is suited to become the biggest breakout player of the group?


Kent Bazemore

Kent Bazemore is the only rookie to make the team that wasn’t drafted.  He earned his spot with his solid play during the NBA Summer League and is known primarily as a defensive stopper.  He is also known for being the guy on the end of the bench who puts on the best team celebrations.

Bazemore was finally able to celebrate for himself as he made his first NBA basket on the road against the Orlando Magic on December 14.  He will really need to contribute on defense in practice to catch the eye of coach Mark Jackson.

Bazemore will be continually shipped back and forth to the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA D-League in order to stay fresh and get the minutes he deserves.  If he can contribute in the limited minutes, he will have a chance to stick around on the extremely deep roster next season.

His stats so far this season are 1.0 PPG, 0.2 APG and 0.2 RPG.  Until he receives more playing time, the best that can be expected out of Bazemore is production after the game has already been decided.

Draymond Green

As you can see from the highlight, Draymond Green has a very high basketball IQ.  He understands where he needs to be on the floor and what he can provide for the Dubs with his forward role. 

That game-winning shot was an example of him waiting it out until he got the Miami Heat’s Shane Battier to commit and took advantage for the hoop.

Green struggled at the start of the season, but he has definitely improved.  For a while, he was taking away minutes from fellow rookie Harrison Barnes.  He is a true X-factor for the Warriors.  His statistics won’t show his influence on the game, but the win-loss record will.

Green is currently averaging a paltry 3.1 PPG, 0.8 APG and 3.8 RPG, but he is strong and will try to physically outwork all of his opponents.  He is also quickly working to become a defensive stalwart by matching up against the other teams’ best players.

In his last 10 games, his plus/minus has improved to 6.2 per game.  He is definitely a bench guy, but the Warriors understand they have a keeper here who can be used in all sorts of key roles when the game is on the line.

Green will grow and will improve offensively to go along with his strong defensive effort.  I consider him someone who could grow into a Battier type of role, but with more physicality and strength.

Festus Ezeli

As you can see from the highlight above, Festus Ezeli brings his body to the floor.  Stephen Curry penetrates toward the basket, makes a chest pass to David Lee, who drops a smooth dish to the driving Ezeli for the easy hoop.

Ezeli hasn’t been an offense force this season, except for plays like above or the occasional put-back.  He has had the added benefit of starting 28 of the Dubs’ 32 games because of Andrew Bogut’s injury.

The biggest benefit with Ezeli is that you can’t teach size, and he is the first legitimate big man that they have drafted since Joe Barry Carroll in 1980 after the ill-fated trade of Robert Parish.

Ezeli has put up a stat line of 2.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 1.1 BPG and is known for his physical presence, especially with his battles against the Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin this season.  He also swatted away five balls during a December 29 win against the Boston Celtics.

Ezeli will continue to grow and prosper, but he needs to soften his hands and develop some standard offensive moves.  He limits his shooting primarily to nine feet and closer and averages 2.6 shots, converting 44.4 percent of the time.

Ezeli has a short shelf life of playing basketball and is still very raw.  I see him developing into a player similar to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kendrick Perkins.

Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes put himself on the map with probably the NBA dunk of the year, but since that time he has been consistent, but not dominant.

He is starting to get comfortable with the defensive rotations and he is doing what is expected of him.  He will have a game where he looks like he is maximizing his potential followed by a game where he lays an egg.  He has been trending on a higher note by scoring in double figures in his last four outings.

Barnes has the athleticism to stretch the floor on offense and the ability to clamor down on opponents defensively.  He has a tremendous basketball IQ and will gradually ascend his potential ladder. 

Per an article by Carl Steward of MercuryNews.com , here is what Harrison Barnes says about being a well-rounded player:

"Everybody wants to be known as a player who plays both ends, because that's what's going to keep you in this league a long time," he said. "Athleticism, all that show and flash, that's good for the fans. But being able to guard the basketball and create things offensively, that's what's going to keep you around. The main thing I try to do is add something positive to every game I play."

Barnes understands what it takes to be a quality player in today’s Association and has the work ethic to one day get there.

Barnes looks to be developing into a player that is the caliber of the Chicago Bulls’ Luol Deng, and if things go right, he could even blossom into someone like the Indiana Pacers’ Danny Granger.

The Golden State Warriors’ youngsters look to have a good understanding of the game and each player brings a special skill to the game.  Some players have a higher ceiling than others.  Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes currently look the most comfortable out on the floor.

If Barnes can continue to grow and not suffer from inconsistencies like he did at the University of North Carolina, then he has the highest upside because he has the most tools available. 

Stats used in this article were accurate as of January 8, 2013.

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